Partnering with Indigenous Peoples to Conserve the Global Environment

August 8, 2014

The theme of this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, implementing the rights of indigenous peoples, is particularly timely. In 2014, the GEF approved a project to strengthen governance and management of indigenous peoples and local communities conserved areas and territories in the Philippines. This project supports the legal recognition of a series of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Areas (ICCAs) and provides resources to communities to manage them. Formal recognition of these areas and support for their sustainable use by indigenous peoples promotes protection from large-scale degradation and destruction, enabling people to provide for their livelihoods.

Indigenous territories house many of the world’s priority areas for biodiversity and ecosystem importance. The loss or degradation of these lands and resources can lead to economic impoverishment, loss of identity and threatened cultural survival. Yet, many indigenous peoples have long histories of traditional knowledge in sustainable resource management and climate change adaptation. Traditional knowledge held by Indigenous Peoples have been proven effective in the conservation of forests and sustainable use of natural resources.


Boy tending field of potatoes with his family in northeastern Brazil. 

For the past 22 years, the GEF supported more than 220 projects involving indigenous peoples. Over the past six years, the number of these projects has more than doubled. These projects relate to biodiversity, sustainable forest management, climate change, land management, persistent organic pollutants, and international waters. In addition, approximately 15% of the 16,000 GEF Small Grants Program projects targeted indigenous peoples as well.

In 2011, the GEF adopted its Principles and Guidelines for Engagement with Indigenous Peoples. In accordance with the guidelines, the GEF established the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group to provide ongoing guidance to the GEF on important issues that pertain to indigenous peoples. The GEF has also worked with its 14 partner agencies to ensure implementation of adequate safeguards for indigenous peoples in projects.

Today, the GEF works with a wide variety of stakeholders to realize the goals of conserving the global environment. In line with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the GEF works hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples across the world to support their sustainable futures and protect the global environment. The GEF looks forward to deepening and strengthening our partnership with indigenous peoples to help tackle some of the greatest environmental challenges.